The latest Sofanauts podcast is up, discussing Asimov’s and digest genre mags generally. Me, Jeremy Tolbert, Sheila Williams, Asimov’s editor, and Brian Bieniowski, Asimov’s managing editor. I come off as some kind of speed freak, because I was too heavily caffeinated. Also, with four people plus Tony Smith, it was difficult to know when jumping in would seem like interruption. Ah well.
Anyway, it’s over 90 minutes long and I can’t bring myself to listen to it because while I’m sure it’s fascinating I want to get out and about tonight.
One thing worth point out: When someone asks a question about “have you thought about issues like continuity versus not being behind the times?” it’s not necessarily an attack. I was actually interested in an answer. I don’t know that I got one, because there’s such a disconnect in my mind between the sometimes interesting fiction Asimov’s and the other digests publish and the way in which they present themselves.
My point there was simply: I have a contributor’s copy from 1995 that looks exactly like the upcoming January 2010 issue, including Mike Resnick and Brian Stableford listed on the cover. Is that continuity or does that mean a revamp is needed? I still believe, in terms of the format and the way you promote the magazine, it means the latter. (That doesn’t mean I think Asimov’s doesn’t include new writers–they do. Nor does it mean I think Asimov should ditch big names like Resnick that sell copies.)
I’m also glad to hear that Asimov’s is no longer losing subscribers, but I’m not convinced they have anything resembling a plan–in part because the staff clearly has constraints imposed by the publisher, but also in part because Sheila and Brian are clearly not fluent in plans that include using the Internet and new media. As I kept saying again and again, they need a publicist, and they need one badly. Not just to refute bad publicity like Warren Ellis’ post about an aging audience, but also to take advantage of cool things they are doing.
Choosing good fiction is an entirely different skill from being able to present your magazine or book in a way that’s fluent and fluid. It would be nice if you could just do your thing and let people find it, but that’s not the paradigm in place right now. We’re seeing more and more writers and other creators who are comfortable being both right and left brained, who can be both deeply imaginative and organized and logical, but this will only ever comprise a minority of writers, etc.
So, anyway, if the podcast serves a purpose, it’s to test Asimov’s, sometimes pointedly, and for listeners to hear Sheila and Brian calmly answering the questions, Tolbert posing his objections equally calmly. While I babble on like a sleep-deprived, fast-talking loon. But sometimes loons are necessary, too.